The best on the box: Our top 10 Xbox One games of all time
A breakdown of the top titles to ever grace the Xbox One, which will grow as new classics are out in the gaming world.
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What's in this guide?
On one hand, it speaks to the quality of third-party developers and publishers. On the other, it's a stark reminder of the shortage of quality first-party exclusives for the Xbox One. If that doesn't really bother you, you're in luck because the last four years of the new-gen console generation has seen the release of some fantastic games.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition
Becoming Commander [Your Chosen First Name Here] Shepard is one of the most memorable and rewarding RPG experiences in gaming. These three games -- in particular the Empire Strikes Back-esque middle child -- represent peak BioWare, creator of many of the genre's greats. Basically, you owe it to yourself to board the SSV Normandy.
If you do answer the call, your customised Shepard will land in the thick of an intergalactic crisis where humanity has barely learned how to crawl, but the stakes couldn't be higher. While striving to be accepted into a prestigious, multi-species special forces group called the Spectres, it's revealed that one of its own has gone rogue.
I'll not spoil much more than that, suffice to say that this is a living, breathing storyline. Every action you take -- be it seemingly dialogue choices, combat encounters or prioritising one quest before another -- can ripple out into huge consequences. Shepard's moral alignment is yours to shape, too -- be a goody two shoes Paragon or a reckless Renegade.
Throw in top-notch world-building, voice work and tactical real-time third-person shooting (that improves as this series progresses,) and this Legendary Edition really ought to be tractor beamed in as soon as you can acquire a lock.
Gears of War 5
Gears of War 5 (weirdly shortened to "Gears 5" now) brings back what I loved about the first game. Namely intense cover-to-cover shooting, OP weaponry, over-the-top gore, and a continuation of the sordid history of the messed up planet Sera. Don't worry if you're a newcomer who knows nothing of the triple-decker apocalypse that has gone on before this latest entry – Gears 5 is a decent entry point that's centred on a new breed of beefcake soldiers.
Long story short, this is the tale of Kait, a free spirited bad-ass forced to buddy up with a bunch of fascists in the name of species survival. Her journey (best experienced via online/local co-op as a group of three) will have you blasting and chainsawing your way into the dark heritage of the Locust swarms who live beneath the surface of the planet. Add in a heavy-hitting multiplayer lineup of Versus, Versus Arcade, Horde, and Escape and this is an essential package for any action junkie.
Sea of Thieves
What is Sea of Thieves? "Yo ho ho ho and an insane headshot done from the crow's nest of my galleon." That could be one answer. "Looting a series of islands filled with AI skeleton hordes and buried treasure chests, only to have it all swiped by human players when I'm metres from cashing it all in." This also could be another correct answer. In the end, Sea of Thieves is an incredibly vast, impressively rendered Carribean-esque sandbox that's chaotic enough to become whatever you want it to be.
Early adopters will be resistant to this recommendation, and for good reason. Sea of Thieves started out like a tech demo, threadbare in terms of quests and player purpose. I can, however, confirm that a series of huge updates has filled this enviable Xbox exclusive with more swash than many of us could ever hope to buckle. Gather up a posse of like-minded miscreants and go get yourself some co-op booty.
Forza Horizon 4
While the Aussie odyssey that was Forza Horizon 3 will always hold a special place in my heart, there's simply no denying that Playground Games shifted this franchise into fifth gear with this follow up. Now set across the leafy landscape of the United Kingdom, Forza Horizon 4's sandbox is a visual tour de force. You're looking at seasonally changing, condensed versions of Edinburgh, the Lake District (including Derwentwater), and the Cotswolds (including Broadway).
Not into sightseeing old Blighty at 300 km/hr? Sink your teeth into collecting a ludicrously large collection of over 450+ iconic automobiles. From there, use your preferred whip to compete in treasure hunts, speed trap challenges and a range of race variants dotted about this world. Better yet, take the game online and bomb around a server that supports 72 other racers at a time. Bottom line: Forza Horizon 4 is the undisputed king of the car-PG genre.
Grand Theft Auto V
Okay, so I kind of fibbed above because there are technically two remasters, but GTA V is something else, as far as the usual "slap on some higher-res textures" are concerned. Stacked next to the last-gen version, GTA V on Xbox One has a higher player count in GTA Online; new vehicles, guns and collectibles; and first-person mode, which is a surprisingly fantastic inclusion to the traditionally third-person series.
Returning players also had access to exclusive content, which helped soften the blow of repurchasing the "same" game 12 months after its release on Xbox 360. Outside of the new content, the new-gen version of GTA V is the best way to play Rockstar's latest sprawling open-world action game. On a simplistic level, the boosted visual fidelity makes the game more immersive and the story more engaging.
Whether you're after an entertaining storyline, a sprawling world littered with activities, or an epic multiplayer endgame, the appeal of Grand Theft Auto V is impossible to ignore.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice represents a fascinating experiment undertaken by FromSoftware. The basic plan: take the sado-masochist delight that was Dark Souls, strip back the character customisation but ramp up the verticality and pace of the combat. Oh, and set it in 17th century Japan, arguably the coolest era and area to be in for a bit o' swordplay.
Last and probably most important of all, combat has taken a sharp turn away from turtle-like defense and evasive rolls to favour tactical aggression. Sekiro is a master of using his katana to attack the posture and balance of his enemies, which eventually leads to an opening that allows for a single killing blow.
Craftier folks will find that stealth kill opportunities have greatly expanded. Our ninja master is also a dab hand at retreating from any fights gone wrong with a quick flick of his grappling hook. That's also great for securing the sort of high ground positions that would make Obi-wan nod in approval.
You can, of course, factor in the usual challenge of FromSoftware's love affair with respawning, but with a twist this time. If you cark it, you have the option of being revived on the spot if they have resurrection power, which is restored by defeating enemies, instead of respawning at earlier checkpoints. Sounds easier. Isn't. Prepare thyself.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Behold, the last great title made by video game auteur Hideo Kojima (and at the time of writing, at least). Metal Gear Solid blew minds when it showed up on PS One in 1998 -- it seems perfectly natural that the last (true) entry in the series should do the same. You can thank the gorgeous visuals provided by the Fox Engine for some of that magic, and the rest can be chalked up to Kojima's quirky "push my game in weird ways and it'll push right back" design philosophy.
This time around, you're sliding into the sneaking suit of the man himself -- Big Boss, eyepatch aficionado and progenitor of Solid Snake. Your mission is to create your own country for mercenary soldiers who want to be able to do their gun-for-hire activities outside of the restraints of international law.
As you can imagine, this requires a ton of capital, resources and the securing of valuable, talented allies. Thus begins a fairly routine gameplay structure of airlifting out into large open-world warzones to tick off objectives and -- by gung ho means or stealth -- making side-mission detours for five-finger discounts.
Admittedly, the narrative might be a tad kooky for those of you unfamiliar with Kojima's directorial style, but there's simply no arguing with the non-linear, stealth espionage gameplay on offer here.
Assassin's Creed Valhalla
With Assassin's Creed Valhalla, Ubisoft slow metamorphosis from stealth/action game to open-world RPG is more or less completed. Sneaky parkour killin' is still viable, but it's taken a backseat in the rowing lines of this particular longboat. Valhalla has charted a course for the full viking experience.
You are the gender-fluid hero that is Eivor, a viking who hopes to solve the problems of overpopulation and a scarcity of new people to kill by invading 8th century Britain. Anybody who has been keeping up with AC series will know the formula here: complete a bunch of free-form missions to secure territorial control and kill the odd mini-boss.
That said, there's a whole bunch more going on. Naval combat is back, as is nurturing/supplying small communities which may require yet more bloodshed or (surprisingly) dialogue tree diplomacy. Throw in the odd drinking or flyting (read: proto-rapping) mini-game, and Valhalla will keep you busy for ages.
Lastly, it's worth mentioning that Ubisoft has come up with an addictive XP and loot grind here. Your Eivor can be nudged along three distinct upgrade paths that will radically affect your combat playstyle. If you value replayability, this is gonna ragnarok your world.
Resident Evil 2 Remake
Unlike the 2002 Resident Evil remake, Capcom didn't go into the development of this with the intent of improving the original 2 disc article we got on PS One. Rather than gussying up the visuals and polishing what passed for a script, this game is instead more a "reimagining" of the original story, with redesigned characters and story elements that lean into Resi 3 territory.
The better news: Capcom has jettisoned the fixed-camera approach to adventuring -- no longer will it feel like there's a phantom director who's in cahoots with ambush happy zombies. You also don't control like a small man-tank that needs to turn on the spot.
If having greater spatial awareness and mobility makes you imagine that Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfiled are going to be out of the usual meat grinder,yeah, nah, think again. Pretty much the second you get to grips with surviving against zombies and "lickers", is the moment when the Tyrant shows up. Think: the T-1000 Terminator meets Frankenstein's monster.
Beyond that, this is the same ammunition scrounging, herb mixing jump-scare fest you know and love. Book yourself a plane ticket to Raccoon City, today. One-way makes the most sense.
Red Dead Redemption 2
Though it wasn't exactly surrounded by a Mexican standoff of competitors, Red Dead Redemption became the best cowboy game this medium had ever seen. This sequel ups that level of acclaim to hands down one of the best video games made. Ever.
To put it into cinematic equivalent terms for you: Rockstar went full Dances with Wolves here. Even if you're not a fan of the Western genre, you can't help but be moved and in awe by what's been put on the screen. This is art and entertainment in equal measure.
Our tale centres on the fate of Arthur Morgan, a well revered member of a gang of outlaws who are trying to eke out a living in an era that's rapidly -- violently -- coming to a close. As time goes on, you and your lovable band of miscreants will be talked into a seemingly never-ending series of "one last scores" to put you all into healthy retirement. The smooth talking Dutch van der Linde always has a backup plan. What he may lack is the ability to fold on a run of very bad hands.
Plot aside, Rockstar's reimagining of America is a sight to behold. It's teeming with deadly wildlife, deadlier dynamic "stranger" encounters and just a frankly absurd attention to detail. Make no mistake: no serious video game collection is without this.
Ori and the Blind Forest
If you scroll through this list, you'll notice that there are a few games where you can shoot things. I'm a big fan of that.
So, to say that Ori and the Blind Forest can melt the stone-cold heart of this digital mass murderer should clue you on to the universal appeal of this beloved game. In a gaming world that's continually obsessed with big-budget AAA games, it's refreshing to come across a smaller-budget gem that has the kind of staying power that it'll be mentioned in "best games of all time" lists like these for years to come.
Ori and the Blind Forest can be knocked over in around eight hours, but you'd be missing out if you just main-pathed it. This is the kind of Metroidvania-style game that entices you to revisit previously-conquered areas with new abilities to sniff out previously-inaccessible areas. The world is so beautifully realised with its gorgeous art design and pitch-perfect soundtrack that you don't want to hit the end credits.
Ori and the Blind Forest will have you crying tears of sadness and joy in a haunting experience that will have you hooked from early on and engaged throughout.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Like Ori and the Blind Forest, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is one of those games that doesn't require you to love the genre to appreciate its special brand of magic. It's so epic, you can get your money's worth by beating the 50-hour campaign. But main-pathing it is ill-advised because there's so many truly worthy distractions in this beautifully realised fantasy world.
Throw in all the DLC with a completionist approach, and you're looking at 200+ hours of gameplay. The Witcher 3 has such an addictive gameplay loop it's tricky to play in short bursts; CD Projekt Red's expert alchemy means the "just five more minutes" line will become your mantra when playing this game.
From fighting bandits and besting challenging beasties, to losing yourself in the main story or plumbing the depths of poignant side quests (the Bloody Baron missions absolutely live up to the hype), this is the kind of single-player experience that flies in the face of the bigger publishers moving towards exclusive multiplayer offerings. It helps that some recent love for Xbox One X owners is a compelling reason to return to this enchanting game.Amazon prices last updated on 15 June, 2021 at 10:01 am
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